Cartoonist and animator Stephen Hillenburg, creator of Nickelodeon's hit SpongeBob SquarePants, died Monday from ALS complications. He was 57 years old.
Nickelodeon paid tribute to Hillenburg this morning with a tweet calling for "a moment of silence to honor his life and work."
💛 We are sad to share the news of the passing of Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants. Today, we are observing a moment of silence to honor his life and work. 💛— Nickelodeon (@Nickelodeon) November 27, 2018
A former marine-biology teacher, Hillenburg began working for Nickelodeon on the mid-1990s animated series Rocko's Modern Life after drawing attention with two short films produced while studying at California Institute of the Arts.
Hillenburg began developing SpongeBob SquarePants in 1994, based on The Intertidal Zone, an informative comic book he created while teaching at the Orange County Marine Institute. The series premiered in May 1999 on Nickelodeon, where it became both a critical and ratings hit, earning six Annie Awards and four Emmy Awards, among others.
Hillenburg served as the original showrunner of SpongeBob SquarePants, and directed the 2004 animated film, The SpongBob SquarePants Movie, which he intended as the series finale. However, when Nickelodeon wanted to continue the lucrative series, he resigned as showrunner. He returned to the property as co-writer of the 2015 feature The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, and then resumed work on the series.
He was diagnosed last year with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), but announced plans to work on SpongeBob SquarePants for as long as he was able.